2019-03-16 by W.M.
Ricciardo has ‘chip on his shoulder’, champs can’t hide: Five things we learned
Daniel Ricciardo’s first qualifying session for Renault is in the books, although it wasn’t the result he or millions of Australians were after.
Nonetheless, there is reason for Ricciardo fans to be excited for Sunday, as he prepares to do what he does best; overtake.
Lewis Hamilton is a man who likely won’t have to do much of that after he once again blitzed the field – as did teammate Valtteri Bottas – with a record-making pole position.
Here are five things we learned from Saturday at the Australian Grand Prix.
RACE CENTRE: Qualifying results, times
F1: Lewis Hamilton takes out his 8th pole at Albert Park, and in doing so sets the track record, beating teammate Valtteri Bottas by 0.112 seconds.
Lewis Hamilton snaps F1 records in Melbourne
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RICCIARDO CAN SALVAGE A GOOD RESULT
Few expected Ricciardo to light up the timesheets in his new Renault on Saturday.
Qualifying 12th, however, was undoubtedly a few positions below the mark.
The Australian put his hand up after qualifying, admitting he left some time out on the track. He missed Q3 by just 0.038 seconds, and was outqualified by his teammate Nico Hulkenberg by just 0.008.
Had he made it through, eighth position would have been on the cards, with McLaren driver Lando Norris taking the spot in Q3 with a time just 0.266 seconds quicker than Ricciardo on a more evolved track.
Nonetheless, the 29-year-old can see the positive to his disappointing Saturday, and explained why he’s in a good position for race day.
“Normally, if I don’t do so well in qualifying, I seem to carry a chip on my shoulder for the race which helps me out, so I will use it as fuel for tomorrow,” he told Sky Sports.
“I was more comfortable in the car today. I don’t think 12th is a representation of where we are, I feel we are better.
“The changes we made today have me more confident for tomorrow … I’m very optimistic for the race it’s just a matter of if we can pass and attack.”
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F1: Dan Ricciardo fails to qualify for Q3 in melbourne, missing out by the slightest of margins in his first real runout as a Renault driver.
Ricciardo, Renault’s Q3 stumble
MERCEDES CAN NO LONGER HIDE THE TRUTH
Mercedes have never warmed to being earmarked as the fastest team after pre-season testing.
From the drivers to the team principal, the team has always preferred to point fingers elsewhere when asked before race one who has the fastest car.
Last year we were led to believe Ferrari were the quickest, as we were this year, too.
But either Mercedes are liars or Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel is far from his best, because the Silver Arrows appear to be title favourites once again.
Even if Ferrari do have the faster package, five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton continuously finds a way to gain the upper hand, as he did comfortably on Saturday.
Hamilton will lead the pack for the season opener after setting a record time of 1.20.486, 0.112 seconds ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas. Vettel finished qualifying a distant third (+0.704), and his teammate Charles Leclerc fifth (+0.956).
Hamilton also equalled the record for the most pole positions at a single circuit, making it eight in Melbourne. Only legends Ayrton Senna (Imola) and Michael Schumacher (Suzuka) have claimed eight at one track.
Indeed, it once again appears as if either Ferrari’s testing pace was over-estimated, Mercedes were sandbagging, or both.
Hamilton, however, insists the gap to the Ferraris has come a surprise.
“It’s a real shock,” he said. “But I know Ferrari will be pushing hard tomorrow and they will put up a good fight.”
GASLY MUST LEARN QUICKLY
Ricciardo’s Red Bull replacement got off to a nightmare start to his career with his new team after crashing out at the first stage of qualifying.
Red Bull have struggled for pace all weekend but the theory was they were waiting for the perfect moment to use their ‘party mode’ with the new Honda engine.
But if they were waiting to use that, then they waited too long as Gasly could only manage 17th in Q1, meaning that is where he will start on the grid.
The 24-year-old qualified last on the grid in his first Melbourne experience last year and only lasted 13 laps on track and his torrid time at Albert Park continued on Saturday afternoon.
Red Bull only failed to qualify from Q1 once in the whole of last season and that was because Max Verstappen crashed his car into the wall at Monaco.
Verstappen himself could only manage P10 after the first qualifying session too as question marks were beginning to get asked of Red Bull.
Joining Gasly in being eliminated in Q1 were Williams duo Robert Kubica and George Russell, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll.
WILLIAMS HAVE FOUND ROCK BOTTOM
Williams have slipped through the mid-table net and will start the 2019 season as F1’s slowest team.
The English outfit have a brand new driver line-up, recruiting homegrown 21-year-old George Russell and miracle man Robert Kubica, who last raced in F1 in 2010 before a rally crash almost claimed his life.
Both are great individual stories and their places on the grid at Albert Park should be celebrated. But those places will be 19th and 20th – second-to-last and dead last respectively.
Williams were miles off the pace in all three practice sessions, too. Both drivers were more than four seconds off the pace in FP1 and then more than three seconds in FP2.
That shows their lack of speed in qualifying was an accurate representation of their struggles, and that there may be a long season ahead.
Russell could still see the funny side after practice, saying tongue-in-cheek that there is still a chance of Williams winning in Melbourne.
“Best case is everybody crashes at turn one, and we come through leading the race and we go on to finish for a one-two and celebrate in style. I don’t know, that’s the best case,” he said.
“Worst case, and probably most realistic, is we’ll qualify on the back row and probably finish the race there as well.”
THE MIDFIELD BATTLE IS TIGHT
Despite his blistering speed, Hamilton believes the gap between all but the bottom four runners is the tightest it’s been in a long time.
“It’s amazing to see how close the top 16 are,” he said.
“There was a second between us all at one point so that’s a real positive for rule regulations.”
The top five ended the day comfortably clear of the rest in qualifying, but there is some evidence pointing to a tight midfield battle.
In Q2, there was only half a second splitting seventh-placed Kevin Magnussen, and 15th placed Daniil Kvyat.
The tight margins made for an intriguing mid-qualifying battle, with even the slightest of errors having big repercussions on the time sheet.
And when you consider a McLaren and a Red Bull were eliminated in Q1, while their other cars made it to Q3, it becomes clearer how tight the margins are through the field.
Only Williams are noticeably slower than the midfield teams.
Originally published as Ricciardo has ‘chip on his shoulder’, champs can’t hide: Five things we learned